Gail Buckland on her book Shots in the Dark: True Crime Pictures
Selecting the photographs for and writing SHOTS IN THE DARK was an experience unlike any I have had as an author or curator. Police photographs are not pretty and can be very hard to look at. I could not do a book about crime within our society and sugar coat it. The sharpness and objectivity of forensic photography brings the viewer directly to the scene of the crime.
There is no filter - no "art" photographer or photojournalist with a particular point of view - between the viewer and the crime scene. It is as if one is given the opportunity to peek over the shoulder of the police photographer and to see what he or she is seeing. The problem of course, is that we are simultaneously attracted and repelled with what we witness.
The book is brilliantly produced and printed, and even I, the author, am seeing more in the reproductions than I noticed in some of the original prints. There are clues in the pictures that only can be gleaned on the second or third viewing. There is no book on the market with this range of forensic and crime photographs that is so well reproduced and designed.
The reader is drawn into the book because as a law-abiding citizen, he or she is forever fascinated by those outside the law - what they look like, what is their crime and how are they punished for their misdeeds. The photographs in SHOTS IN THE DARK , have been meticulously selected and, bring the criminals and their stories to life. These are photographs, once seen, will never be forgotten. There is not one picture in the book that I have not thought hard and long about before I published it. These pictures look crime squarely in the eye.
The book is divided into 8 sections: a brilliant overview by Harold Evans of how the police and the media depict and define criminals and how these images are absorbed into mainstream culture; a history of forensic photography by Gail Buckland, tracing how the police have used photography since the mid-19th century to the present day; and six chapters covering crime scenes, murderers, sensational cases, punishment and the prison system, gangsters and the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy.